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Devil’s Consort (Queen Defiant) by Anne O’Brien

Posted By Claire on June 13, 2011

UK Version

I have spent the last couple of weekends immersed in fiction about Eleanor of Aquitaine and have thoroughly enjoyed myself. Although Eleanor is not from my favourite era, the Tudor period, I find her a fascinating character because she was such a powerful woman in what was a man’s world and she has an amazing story.

I first became interested in Eleanor after reading Christy English’s novel, “The Queen’s Pawn” – see my review at http://reviews.theanneboleynfiles.com/the-queens-pawn-by-christy-english/462 – which focuses on Eleanor’s later life, the later years of her marriage to Henry II of England, so I was eager to read an account of Eleanor’s earlier years.

Anne O’Brien’s “Devil’s Consort”, or Queen Defiant as it is known in the US, takes us from 1137 when Eleanor first meets her husband to be, Louis Capet the heir to the French throne, to 1154 and Eleanor’s coronation as Queen of England. Just 17 years, yet Eleanor packed a lifetime’s worth of passion, scandal, unhappiness, tragedy, frustration, disappointment, love, grief and ambition into them. The reader is taken on a rollercoaster ride through Eleanor’s emotions and her story, and you just cannot help but fall in love with this passionate heroine who has so much hope for the future but seems to be stuck in a dead end marriage with a man who sees sex as a sin and who lives as a monk. Eleanor is ambitious, daring, courageous, passionate and strong, yet her husband, who becomes King of France, is not King material and cannot fulfil his wife in either the bedroom or in life in general. How is Eleanor meant to do her duty to France when Louis won’t do his duty in the bedroom? A real conundrum! And how is Eleanor meant to cope in dirty, cold, backward Paris, away from her beloved Aquitaine with its beauty and culture? This novel tells her story – her struggles, her frustration with Louis and life in Paris, her love affairs and her eventual escape from her life of thwarted ambition and her partnership with the like-minded Henry Plantagenet.

US Version

O’Brien brings Eleanor, Louis, Henry, Aquitaine and Paris to life with her writing, and it is a gripping story which the reader will find hard to put down, whether or not they already know the story. I loved Anne O’Brien’s “Virgin Widow” (see http://reviews.theanneboleynfiles.com/virgin-widow-by-anne-obrien/363), about Anne Neville, and have recommended that to friends and family and now I have another one to recommend and to give as presents. This novel is the perfect holiday read or one to enjoy in a sunny garden, wine glass in hand – just don’t tell anyone where you are as you really won’t want to be disturbed!

In conclusion, this is a wonderful romp through Eleanor’s life and is a real page-turner. If you can treat this book as fiction, which is what of course it professes to be, and not an accurate re-telling of Eleanor’s story, then you are likely to enjoy it and rave about it to everyone around you; if 100% historical accuracy is your thing then you may get annoyed at times. The only thing that annoyed me was the publisher’s tag line or subtitle on the UK version: “England’s Most Ruthless Queen”, I just didn’t think that summed Eleanor up, but I soon forget about that once I got hooked by the book. Enjoy!

At the back of the book, you will find:-

  • Family trees – These are very useful when you consider Eleanor’s plea for an annulment based on consanguinity
  • Questions for your reading group
  • Inspiration – Anne O’Brien explains how she was inspired to write the novel
  • A closer look at Eleanor
  • Further reading about Eleanor
  • Author biography
  • Why I write
  • Q&A on writing
  • Top ten books

Details

Paperback: 624 pages (UK), 448 pages (US)
Publisher: Mira (15 April 2011) in the UK, NAL Trade (7 June 2011) in the US
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9780778304272 (UK), 0451234111 (US)
ISBN-13: 978-0778304272 (UK), 978-0451234117 (US)

Click on the UK or US book covers above to order from Amazon UK or Amazon.com.

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